CLEVELAND — Those wondering why Jason Giambi was still on the Indians roster got an emphatic answer Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
With Cleveland leading by just a run, Giambi, who entered the day batting a minuscule .164, belted a decisive three-run home run in the sixth inning that ensured a 5-2 victory over the Reds.
The win snapped a season-high five-game losing streak for the Indians, who entered the night having lost seven of their last eight games.
Since arriving in Cleveland, the 42-year-old veteran Giambi has been assisting the Indians with leadership and knowledge. Now, after hitting homers in consecutive games, he’s helping them with his bat, too.
“That’s the most important thing I’ve been trying to focus on, just trying to help the club win anyway I can,” said Giambi, who broke an 0-for-24 skid with a game-tying homer Tuesday in Cincinnati. “There’s no greater feeling in the world than being able to help the ballclub.”
Giambi’s worth to the Indians might be tough to detect, considering he is batting .185, but it’s the intangibles, plus the power numbers — four homers and 16 RBIs in 20 games — that are invaluable, according to manager Terry Francona.
“We got him over here for a lot of reasons, understanding that where he’s at in his career that we can’t run him out there every day,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “You have to pick your spots, because he has that wear on the tires.
“When G does something, everybody goes crazy. He’s got a lot of fans in that dugout.”
None bigger than right-hander Justin Masterson, who rode to the rescue to stop a losing skid, as he has done often during his tenure in Cleveland. The right-hander allowed just a run on four hits over six innings, but all he wanted to talk about was Giambi.
“The biggest part (of the win) was Big G,” Masterson said. “He kind of got his feet wet in Cincinnati. You can’t say enough about it. It’s hard for anyone else outside of this clubhouse to understand just how much we appreciate him.”
Masterson (8-3, 3.07 ERA) allowed a solo homer to the third batter he faced — Joey Votto — but locked in from there, not surrendering another hit until the fifth inning.
“My thought was, ‘Let’s keep it right there,’ because we needed this win,” said Masterson of his thoughts after allowing the homer to Votto. “We needed to have a good victory, because things haven’t been working out for us.”
Masterson’s best work of the evening came in the sixth.
He loaded the bases with no outs after hitting Todd Frazier with a pitch, then proceeded to start a double play on a grounder back to the mound before ending the inning by retiring Ryan Hanigan on a fly ball to left.
“Bases loaded and no outs and you just want him to limit the damage,” Francona said. “That was a big momentum shift. You have to have the stuff (to get out of jams), but I think he competes so well.
“Whether we win, lose or draw, it’s nice to send him out there, because he’s so consistent and he knows what his responsibility is.”
Giambi changed the game in the bottom of the inning, hitting his fourth career homer off Reds starter Bronson Arroyo. He is 8-for-21 lifetime off the right-hander.
The victory coupled with Detroit’s loss trimmed Cleveland’s deficit to 1½ games in the Central Division standings.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.